The “Good News” Week
Sep 28, 2010
Is it really true that “no news is good news”?
After the past year of covering dairy’s economic struggle, bovine TB, California’s uncertain dairy future, ugly undercover dairy videos, drug residues in meat and other industry problems, I could certainly agree that good news seems in short supply.
Sometimes, however, it’s hard to tell if news is good or bad.
Just last week, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its “Overview of the United States Dairy Industry.” The report showed the number of U.S. dairies declined by 33% between 2001 and 2009. Is that good or bad news?
Milk production and the number of milk cows rose during those years. The number of herds with 500 head or larger also grew. These larger herds accounted for nearly 60% of all milk produced in 2009, up nearly 40% from 2001. That dairy concentration means there are a lot fewer dairy producers than there used to be. Is that bad or good news?
The most dramatic increases in operation sizes, USDA-NASS said, occurred in the largest size group, dairies with 2,000 or more milk cows. Those multiplied from only .3% (that’s point three) of all U.S. dairies, 12% of milk cows and 13% of milk production in 2001, to 1% of all dairies and almost a third of all the nation’s milk cows and milk output in 2009.
Here’s another whopping statistic from that USDA-NASS report: The 10 largest milk-producing states accounted for nearly 74% of total U.S. milk production in 2009. You might be tempted to say that’s good news if you’re No. 1 California. But being bigger draws a lot of unwelcome heat, as any California dairy producer will tell you.
The good news-bad news determination should be much clearer this week. Here at World Dairy Expo, it’s all good news. The industry is out in full force and decked to the nines. The industry’s biggest names, its best cows, its most enthusiastic entrepreneurs are here, all of them with a can-do message. World Dairy Expo isn’t the place for pessimism. When 65,000 people come to visit – as expected at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis., this week – you put your best foot forward.
That means we at Dairy Today will bring you the “good news” this week. Dairy Today Editor Jim Dickrell and I have planned interviews to learn what’s new in robotic milking systems, automatic calf feeders, automatic barn cleaners, and automatic feed pushers. We’ll attend sessions on manure digesters, recent genetic developments, heifer feed efficiency, and precision dairy farming. We’ll cover the Virtual Farm Tours, where producers proudly reveal their dairies through “you are there” videos. We’ll cover the 2010 Dairy Forage Toolbox sessions, with their emphasis on what and how to best feed your herd.
We’ll also bring you short video interviews with experts and other attendees.
We’ll do our best to deliver a taste of five full days of world-class competition, featuring more than 2,500 dairy cattle from among North America’s top dairy breeders. More than 750 companies from two dozen countries will present the world’s largest dairy-focused trade show, showcasing everything needed to manage a herd of dairy cows.
In fact, there’s so much positive news, I don’t think we can deliver it all this week. But we’ll make sure it gets to you. Watch your inbox for our reports in this daily e-newsletter. We’ll also feature more in upcoming issues of Dairy Today, our weekly Dairy Today eUpdate, and through our newly re-launched website.
So, expect a little sunshine this week. We’ll leave the bad news for another time.